Boehm-Davis named new dean of CHSS

Deborah Boehm-Davis, the current associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, has been chosen to succeed Jack Censer as the new dean of the college.

She is scheduled to assume her new role on July 1.

Boehm-Davis is also a university professor of psychology at Mason. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Douglass College and Rutgers University, as well as both a Master's degree and a PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of California, Berkley.

"My personal goal is to ensure [CHSS] continues to be as successful as it had been under the current dean and grows even stronger," Boehm-Davis said.

According to Censer, one of Boehm-Davis' qualifications for her upcoming responsibilities is her personality.

Deborah Boehm-Davis will begin her tenure as the dean of CHSS on July 1 (photo courtesy College of Humanities and Social Sciences).

"She's even keel, immensely patient, very emotionally calm and brings a lot of positive reinforcement to difficult environments," Censer said. "When a problem gets to us there is already a lot of anxiety invested in it. She has the right personality [for that]."

Censer also cited her impressive credentials, which are a combination of practical research and administrative experience.

Boehm-Davis has been the president of both the Applied Experimental and Engineering Psychology Divison of the American Psychological Association, and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. She is also a member of the editorial board for Theoretical Issues in Ergonomic Science.

Her research in ergonomics addresses human processing limitations, such as a person's reaction time to information they visually receive.

"Ergonomics is the field of taking what we know about processing limitations and applying that to object design for productivity and safety," Boehm-Davis said. "Signs on the freeway, for example, need to be lit so that they can be seen after dark."

Beyond roadway signs, her research the past 20 years focused on addressing processing limitations in aircraft cockpits. She has received more than $15.7 million in funding from such agencies as the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Office of Naval Research and Army Research Laboratory.

"A lot of accidents caused by pilots were the result of them not understanding the information presented to them by the cockpit instruments," Boehm-Davis said. "One of my students worked with Boeing on a potential design to see if it would reduce those problems."

Boehm-Davis said that her research assistants will carry on her work as she becomes more immersed in her administrative responsibilities.

"I've been very fortunate to have former students and people we hired who have kept my research going," Boehm-Davis said. "They are independent, bright individuals that have been able to do quite a bit of work with minimal guidance."

Censer described the responsibilities of being the CHSS dean in one word: "mayhem."

"[CHSS] is a huge goliath of an institution," Censer said. "This concludes 18 years of chairing and deaning straight [for me], and I think I made my worst decisions [when I didn’t have] enough time to consult with everyone. When a decision has to be made and you go on your gut."

The outgoing dean is confident, however, that his successor is capable of handling these decisions.

"She's doing a great job already," Censer said.

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